Regional Arts Commission partners with mall management to create bustling arts colony for artists & cultural groups
ST. LOUIS-March 11, 2009 - For a theater company that's been producing shows out of a church basement, having its own theater is a dream come true. And paying only $100 a month to rent the space sounds like a fantasy. But thanks to ArtSpace -- an unusual new arts colony found in the mostly unlikely environment of a suburban mall in St. Louis -- that's exactly what's happening for Avalon Theater Company and many other artists and cultural groups.
The unique partnership was developed between Crestwood Court mall, owned by Centrum Properties, and the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) in St. Louis, the largest funder of the arts in the region for the past 24 years. The mall needed a creative use for its unleased space and called on RAC to work with the cultural community.
"Adequate space is one of the major challenges artists face," says Jill McGuire, executive director of RAC, whose mission is to promote and support the arts. "We knew this would generate excitement and were thrilled when hundreds of people came out for the first open house."
The ArtSpace community has taken vacant retail space and repurposed it for performances, studios, galleries, classes and offices. True to their profession, the artists are finding creative ways to use their new homes.
A dance studio, occupying the space of a high end clothing retailer, finds the pristine wooden floors ideal for tap and Irish dancing. What were once dressing rooms for the Gap, now are dressing rooms for performers to change into costumes. Artist Jeanne Vogel uses the sinks where hairdressers used to wash clients' hair to wash paint brushes. And a former jewelry store has been turned into a gallery where display cases are filled with hand-made bowls.
ArtSpace is believed to be the largest community of its kind in the United States. "We know of no other mall that has accommodated artists to this magnitude," says Leisa Son, creator of the project and marketing manager at Crestwood Court, managed by Jones Lang LaSalle. "We've been able to redefine retail space usage with this project," she says. "Despite the economy, we've created a sense of rejuvenation and excitement. Suddenly, this mall is a destination once again."
In fact, the response has been overwhelming. More than 60 groups have signed contracts and she receives multiple inquiries every day.
"ArtSpace is a model for how business and the arts can work together," says McGuire. "To achieve economic success today, business requires a workforce that is creative and innovative in developing products and services. ArtSpace is reminder that the arts benefit from business and that business benefits from the arts."
ArtSpace offers perks most artists only dream of. The rent is nominal, averaging $100 per month, plus utilities. The enormous spaces provide plenty of room for theaters, galleries, dance classes, work areas and offices. There's spacious, well lit, free parking; 24 hour security; and a sparkling clean facility in a safe, centrally located neighborhood.
The ArtSpace concept is already working.
- After hearing of ArtSpace, the company handling the casting of George Clooney's new movie "Up in the Air" (which is being shot in St. Louis) conducted its call for extras at Crestwood Court. Thousands of people showed up, bringing much needed traffic to the mall.
- Because of the publicity, new retailers are inquiring about leasing space and the mall is getting inquiries from café and other food related businesses.
- A laid off interior designer, who had long dreamed of opening her own studio, is now happily situated in ArtSpace. Her first client: Crestwood Court. She's already designing the visual merchandising for ArtSpace.
- Local moms are excited that they can drop their kids off for arts classes in a secure environment, while they shop or have lunch.
- Cash strapped artists, many who have lost funding, are able to continue their work with greatly reduced overhead costs.
- A local high school art teacher, Marilyn Callahan, created a gallery to display student artwork and sold a student's painting for $125 in the first week.
- Judith Newmark, the arts editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, described the new artists' colony as "decidedly upbeat and apparently good for the mall."
Though still in early development, a spirit of excitement and camaraderie has grown in the ArtSpace corridor of the mall. Already, actors, musicians, dancers, and artists are finding ways to work together to develop audiences and foster appreciation for the arts.
Roy Robinson, Mayor of Crestwood couldn't be more pleased. "The City is excited about a new approach for the Mall - it adds a whole new dimension to a very important space."
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About Centrum Properties
Centrum Properties, a full service real estate firm, specializes in the development of distinctive residential and commercial properties. It is based in Chicago and was founded in 1980. Centrum Properties has been named a Builder 100 company. In addition to creating innovative residential spaces nation-wide, Centrum has developed major commercial spaces like 600 West, a 1.5 million square foot state-of-the-art office and technology project. For more information on Centrum Properties, visit www.centrumproperties.com.
About Jones Lang LaSalle
As a third-party service provider, Jones Lang LaSalle Retail manages the largest retail portfolio in the country. The firm's 59 million-square-foot portfolio consists of more than 145 regional malls, strip centers, power centers, lifestyle centers, ground-up development projects, mixed-use centers and transportation terminals across 30 states. Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL), located in Atlanta, has a portfolio of 1.2 billion square feet of property under management worldwide, including more than 10,000 retail locations on four continents. Jones Lang LaSalle is the only global real estate services firm with a team of dedicated, full-time experts who deliver comprehensive and globally integrated services in Energy and Sustainability under one umbrella. The firm offers leading-edge, industry-unique technology, training and tools in energy and sustainability to maximize the benefits for its clients and the greater community. For more information on Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, visit www.jllretail.com.
About the Regional Arts Commission
Founded in 1985, the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) is a cultural catalyst in the St. Louis area, providing financial, technical, promotional and other support for arts organizations. Directed by a board of fifteen commissioners appointed by the chief executives of St. Louis City and County, RAC is a pivotal force in the continuing development and marketing of the arts in the region. Since its inception, RAC has awarded more than 5000 grants totaling $65 million. In May 2008, 205 of the area's arts organizations, consortiums and cultural programs, large and small, received grant awards totaling more than $3.6 million, funded by a portion of the hotel/motel room sales tax. RAC's four-story facility including the area's first Cultural Resource Center is located at 6128 Delmar Blvd. Call RAC at (314) 863-5811 or visit www.art-stl.com.